Speaking over an official call supervised by the Byculla jail superintendent, imprisoned activist Shoma Sen reportedly informs daughter of over 20 Covid-19 cases within Byculla prison.
T least 20 persons have allegedly tested positive for COVID-19 at Mumbai’s Byculla women’s jail, according to Koel Sen, daughter of activist Shoma Sen who is presently lodged in the jail. Earlier on Thursday, September 23, 2021, Koel reportedly spoke with her mother Shoma over an official call supervised by the jail superintendent, where she was informed of the same.
No less than two female senior citizens sharing the same barrack as the Bhima Koregaon accused activists Shoma Sen and Sudha Bharadwaj have tested COVID-positive, Koel Sen said. Both the affected women had reportedly received two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine as well.
The Leaflet tried to independently verify the claims from authorities at the Byculla jail. Prison authorities did not revert despite repeated calls; this story shall be updated if and when they choose to comment.
Only two days earlier on September 21, a special NIA court in Mumbai had rejected Shoma Sen’s medical bail application. Her lawyers had noted that she is a senior citizen suffering from hypertension and blood-pressure issues, thus vulnerable to catching and suffering from the serious health effects of COVID-19 in prison.
The application for bail also referred to the May 2020 High Power Committee report which had suggested that prisons be decongested to reduce the risk of contracting the virus. Rejecting the application, special judge D.E. Kolhatkar had instead directed the prison authorities to “observe medical protocol and provide appropriate medical aid to the applicant, if required.”
Last year, lawyers for accused lawyer-trade unionist Bhardwaj had also filed for interim bail before the Supreme Court, citing the pandemic and her deteriorating health conditions. Bhardwaj suffers from comorbidities, including diabetes and high-blood pressure, and has a history of pulmonary tuberculosis. However, her lawyers withdrew the application in September 2020 when the apex court appeared inclined to dismiss it.
Earlier in May 2021, at least three co-prisoners in the same barrack as Sudha Bhardwaj were reportedly COVID-positive.
Recent reports have also highlighted a possible rise in Covid-19 cases in Mumbai. Byculla has purportedly emerged as a key hotspot for the virus, with a growth rate equivalent to double that of Mumbai city.